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Russia votes for parliament, a test of Putin’s leadership

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Russians vote Sunday in parliamentary elections that will test the country’s trust in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his ruling party amid growing impatience with corrupt and ineffective government.

Putin’s United Russia party was expected to fare poorer than it did four years ago but nonetheless was considered likely to retain a majority in the next State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament.

Polls opened in the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s Far East at 8 a.m. Sunday and are to close at 8 p.m. in the western exclave of Kaliningrad.

The first exit poll data are due to be released as the last polling stations close, with initial official results expected in the early hours of Monday.

A total of 110 million Russian citizens, including 2 million expatriates scattered around the world, are eligible to vote in Sunday’s election to fill the 450 seats of the State Duma for the next five years, according to the Central Election Commission.

Head of the commission Vladimir Churov said Saturday that about 500,000 representatives of the competing parties would monitor the vote Sunday. He added that they would be joined by 700 election observers from international organisations and foreign countries.

Competing parties, public groups and popular opinion-makers have united in criticism of United Russia, the dominant organisation on the Russian political landscape in recent years, and Sunday’s vote is watched closely as a gauge of the party’s staying power.

The 59-year-old Putin, who served two terms as president between 2000 and 2008, was nominated last month by United Russia as its candidate for presidential elections next March which he is widely regarded as almost certain to win regardless of the party’s performance in Sunday’s Duma vote.